Sensorineural hearing loss, one of the most common hearing complaints, can be caused by a number of factors including age, damage to the ear, loud noise and disease or ear infection. Also called nerve deafness, it is the most common form of hearing loss amongst the elderly (presbycusis). At its root however, sensorineural hearing loss is an inner ear or auditory nerve dysfunction or impairment.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Causes:

middle ear infection

An inner ear infection can lead to sensorineural hearing loss

This hearing loss condition is caused by the tiny hair cells in the cochlea being damaged either as a result of a one-time trauma, or progressively over a number of months or years. It can be the result of illness or disease and usually builds gradually over time. In extreme cases it can lead to acute deafness.

In the cases of SNHL being caused by the likes of an ear infection that can be cured, then the hearing loss itself stands a good chance of recovery if the ear infection can be cleared up. Otherwise especially in the case of the elderly then the hearing loss may well be permanent.

This hearing loss can also be inherited (generic) in many cases, and so not easily avoided by either lifestyle change or indeed medication.

Loud noise either one-time sudden blast, or over a period of time can also be the cause of hearing impairment leading to tinnitus (ringing in the ears) combined with partial or total hearing loss.

Some over-the-counter medications as well as prescription drugs are ototoxic. Exposure to these can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss. Illness and drugs that may cause sensorineural hearing loss include…

  • Meniere’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Meningitis
  • Mumps
  • German measles in a pregnant mother can cause SNHL in the child
  • Aspirin
  • Quinine
  • Antibiotics
  • Cisplatin

However it has to be established that the root cause of SNHL cannot always be established, and so is often referred to as a permanent, irreversible condition that may or may not respond to treatment.

Treatment For Sensorineural Hearing Loss

As stated earlier, treatment for this condition depends on the root cause. This can include a course of anti-biotics if an ear infection is to blame. If the root cause is a disease such as multiple sclerosis then treating the MS could result in improved hearing. It could also involve a reduction or change of prescribed medication, if the medication you are currently taking is the root cause of the deafness.

However in the instance that your SNHL is caused by impairment or damage to the inner ear, then a medical examination may determine whether medical therapy with corticosteroids to reduce cochlea hair cell swelling and inflammation, may help the condition.

Any sudden sensorineural hearing loss may be the result of a viral infection which could be treated with corticosteroids. However the most common form of hearing loss known as irreversible sensorineural hearing loss is usually treated with the help of hearing aids, or in the most extreme cases, a cochlear implant which requires a small surgical procedure.


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